Fire Department and Emergency Response Issues with street improvements

SFFD 1-desktop from zRants on Vimeo. (includes videos and Q and A)

CSFN General Assembly Presentation by Assistant Deputy Chief Anthony Rivera, July 18, 2017  Powerpoint. attached Notes from the presentation are here or download a word doc. July CSFN SFFD. Download the Q and A that followed the presesntation.

Videos of recent accidents and emergency vehicles trying to enter the ER at General Hospital caught up in traffic jams.

Despite SFFD Complaints, SFMTA Board OKs Upper Market Parking-Protected Bike Lanes

by Carrie Sisto : hoodline – excerpt

Clogged traffic on Masonic before they cut out any lanes.

Despite objections from fire department officials, San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s board voted yesterday to approve new parking-protected bike lanes and other changes to the roadway in the Upper Market area.

“The item was passed unanimously with the understanding that we would work with SFFD to develop a plan that includes the features of the project, while ensuring that first responders have the necessary access,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose told us.

Easily-installed improvements like painting new protected bike lanes should be installed this year, but large-scale construction improvements like adding bulb-outs and islands will occur in 2019… (more)

This is not about traffic laws or safety regulations. This is about science and physics and the fact that no two objects can occupy the same space at one time.
I just witnessed a traffic jam on 18th Street with a fire department ambulance stuck in traffic. It was being held up by what appeared to be a school bus coming from the opposite direction.
The totality of the traffic and anti-traffic flow tactics being unleashed on SF streets is the problem. Left unchecked, a fire can double in size, or so fire department personnel have claimed. Do you really want to second guess the Fire Department when they tell you they can’t serve the public under these circumstances?
If you think it is more important to promote traffic nightmares that hamper emergency vehicles and stop traffic flow, I hope you are prepared to take your friends and family who need assistance on your bike to the hospital next time they need help because the ambulance you count on may not make it in time.


The SFMTA has a priority problem

Letter to the editor : sfexaminer – excerpt
comment on Plan for bike lane on Turk Street in Tenderloin being reconsidered

I’m horrified that our city government prioritizes bikes ahead of public safety. I have witnessed firsthand the disaster that the SFMTA has created, confiscating public infrastructure and re-purposing for a vocal minority. Watching from Davies Symphony Hall, we were shocked to see an ambulance unable to get through Van Ness due to the newly confiscated lanes for a ridiculous bus lane and bike lanes.

During a ride along with the SFPD, officers had to slam over speed humps and screech around bulb-outs getting to an emergency call. I can only imagine what that would do to an ambulance occupant. And recently I turned right onto Eighth Street and nearly slammed into a concrete island that appeared in the middle of the right lane.

Why are we putting billions of dollars toward street redesign when we can’t even maintain them, can’t even plant trees? When seniors and disabled object to street redesigns, why do their voices fall on deaf ears? Why are the Bicycle Coalition and the SFMTA so powerful that they dictate an anti-car policy that endangers public safety?

When the Fire Department objects due to public safety concerns, they should be prioritized first. I pale to think the nightmare we will endure when they next earthquake hits and our emergency services, food and water can’t get through. It’s clear we’ll get no sympathy from the mayor, the Board of Supervisors and especially not the SFMTA (now affectionately known as Motorist Torment Authority).

As a 28-year resident of San Francisco and a supporter of subway expansion, I find myself unable to vote for funding for the SFMTA. They only cause misery and favor the 3 percent (or less) vocal minority.

Jamey Frank, San Francisco… (more)

We have been told that the bike coalition provides precinct workers. Those of us who worked some precincts know this is not the case in the districts we worked, so that excuse will not fly any more. There were lots of non-bicycle coalition precinct workers and the one Bike Coalition candidate lost big in the district he ran in. These supervisors don’t owe SFBC anything. If anyone is owned it is us.

If there is a reconsideration of the bike lanes it may be because people who work drive emergency vehicles stepped forward, complained, and stated that they are not responsible for loss of lives due to traffic congestion that precludes them from being able to do their jobs of saving lives and property when they are called to do so.

The public should demand an incident report that documents the results of ER vehicles being held up in traffic. How many claims have been filed? I have personally observed fire trucks stuck on Van Ness, (before the lane reduction) and on King Street in front of the stadium.

Masonic Streetscape Project To Break Ground In June

by R. A. Schuetz : sf.streetsblog – exccerpt

In June 2013, funding to redesign Masonic Avenue from Fell to Geary was approved, after years of outreach by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and community organizing both for and against the project. Now, the construction, originally forecast to begin last May, is finally preparing break ground in June. It’s expected to last until late 2017…

The contract for the project was awarded to Shaw Pipelines for $18.3 million. Including soft costs and construction support, the project will cost a total of $26.1 million.

One of the major concerns for residents was the removal of 167 parking spaces on Masonic, to accommodate the raised bike lane, widened sidewalks, and enhanced bus stops. But before construction begins in June, 22 new back-in angled parking spaces will be added on Turk Street between Baker and Central.

According to the SFMTA, “Changes on some other streets under consideration are on hold, given operational and technical concerns expressed by members of the community and the San Francisco Fire Department.”…

The reason we are posting this story that ran in March is to emphasize the fact that there are technical as well as political issues involved in the pause in implementation  of the Masonic project. There may also be some litigation.

There are three important things to look at here, the number one being the “operational and technical concerns expressed by… the Fire Department. that effect emergency services. Quite a number of people from Planning Commissioners to Supervisors, to Federal representatives have voiced concern about the major traffic snarls in the city and some of them are addressing the issue of health and safety where the ability of emergency vehicles to transverse the city fast in emergency situations.

The SFMTA plans to slow traffic on Lombard, Van Ness, Masonic, 16th Street, Mission Street, Folsom, Potrero and Cesar Chavez. How is anyone supposed to get across town fast in an emergency situation? How can ambulances access hospitals?

We know there are slowdowns and there may have already been lawsuits over these delays. A lot of cases are settled against the SFMTA and the city all the time that are not covered in the press. We also know that the SFMTA and DPW have been required to fix some of the technical mistakes they have made in curb designs and bulbouts that effect the ability of their MUNI buses and other large vehicles to turn. Removing and narrowing the lanes is a major problem.There are state laws that specify lanes widths that are being ignored or excused on state streets.

Our city government is hard at work trying to change some of those laws. Using our city streets and SF citizens as guinea pigs under the guise of pilot programs is one way the SFMTA attempts to skirt state laws and regulations. We will be looking into this later.

Money is a big issue this year. SFMTA claims they can do more with less, even though they are broke. We have seen no record on how much these mistakes are costing or how these errors are being paid for. Where on the budget do we find these fixes?

Stay turned for an OpEd that will attempt to take these matter into account as we go into the budget period in which the Mayor has asked all departments to cut back, due to a shortage of revenue this year.


North Beach Meeting on Sidewalk Bulbs Gets Tense; SFMTA to Paint Demos

by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

A public meeting in North Beach became tense yesterday as residents and firefighters opposed to basic street safety measures continued to assert that sidewalk bulb-outs are dangerous. To appease skeptics, the SFMTA announced that the bulb-outs planned at four intersections on Columbus Avenue will be tested first by installing painted “safety zones” in August. Construction of concrete versions will begin next year…

The bulb-outs “being proposed for Columbus Avenue are not that scary,” said D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, who told attendees she convinced the SFMTA to implement the painted versions as a trial. “We’ve been looking at all these really carefully… modifications were made, and what we’ve got now is kind of a river stone that’s been smoothed over by all kinds of forces.”…

It was the second recent meeting about bulb-outs held by North Beach Neighbors. At the first meeting on April 30, Hoodline reported, members of SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 protested life-saving curb extensions claiming they hinder fire trucks. Since that meeting, the union’s president also sent a letter [PDF] to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White calling the department’s approvals of bulb-outs “very troubling.”…

A few people remained unconvinced, however, and raised their voices. Here’s one of the arguments between an opponent and SFMTA planner Oliver Gajda, about whether it’s safe to assume that trucks can turn around bulb-outs without conducting a field test:

Firefighter Tony Rivera also repeated an anecdote to scare people about the prospect of wider sidewalks that he told at the April meeting, according to Hoodline.

At Columbus and Union Streets, where the block of sidewalk along Washington Square Park was extended last year to make the bus stop more efficient, Rivera said he became alarmed when his six-year-old son bent down to pick up a penny at the curb.

“The bus came by — I didn’t realize I was now standing in traffic,” Rivera said. “Before, there used to be a buffer of cars. There should be a warning saying that you are now much closer. If you’re a little kid, or my mom who’s 93 — she needs glasses — she cannot tell that she’s standing right in the way of a vehicle.”

He also complained to Gajda that taxpayers have to pay for the curb extensions, and that he didn’t get a notification about them. “It’s wrong, man. You don’t live in the neighborhood, I do… I think it’s bullshit.”

Rivera said he “has to drive a car,” and that if bulb-outs remove more parking spots, “I’m not going to go there and help our neighborhood because I’m going to be driving around, distracted. It’s going to be crazy.”

Daniel Macchiarini of the North Beach Business Association has continued to fight the 2010 Columbus Avenue study that recommended more space for people. He claimed that the SFPD told him there haven’t been any pedestrian injuries since 2013, except for one “criminal” one, at the intersections set to get bulb-outs, which will “destroy small businesses.” He said SFFD only approved the bulb-outs because of “pressure from the mayor’s office.”

Macchiarini also said that SFMTA staff hasn’t returned his emails over the years requesting statistics on pedestrian safety to explain “why we’re doing this.”…

While SFFD has shown signs of softening its opposition to bulb-outs and narrower roadways, SFFD Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi said the agency’s stance has never changed. As he explained in January 2014, “it’s hard to pinpoint” what has slowed emergency response times, but the department has “shut down” or watered down safety improvements nonetheless.

After showing stats and pictures of broken fire truck components caused by hitting “obstacles,” he said he couldn’t say how many of them were caused by bulb-outs. He said, however, that SFFD would like to see more daylighting and bike lanes, as long as they’re not protected by “hardscape” structures… (more)

Wiener Moves to Make NACTO Street Design Guides Official Policy for SF

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced a bill that would make the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ guides for Urban Streets and Urban Bikeways official city policy. The SFMTA Board of Directors already adopted the NACTO guides in January, but Wiener’s legislation would establish them as official guidelines for other agencies to use, including the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, and the SF Fire Department… (more)

We have Phil Ting’s AB 1193 to thank for this headache, and the lobbies hired by the SFMTA and the Bicycle Coalition who wrote and sold it to the state legislature.

Send inquires to the other city agencies that this legislation seeks to control, such as the Fire Department and other emergency responders. Find out how concerned they are about the narrow streets and other obstructions SFMTA is planning to fund with the Prop A Bond funds.

Let SF City officials know who you blame for gridlock and ask the state assembly candidates who they plan to support when they get to Sacramento.


San Francisco Muni crashes trigger emergency response notifications

By Jana Katsuyama : ktvu – excerpt


The two MUNI crashes Friday which happened in separate parts of the city within minutes of each other triggered San Francisco’s emergency alert system, according to a spokesman for one of the hospitals.

The first crash involved a Muni bus and a dump truck on Geary Boulevard about 1:30p.m. The second crash involved a light rail train on the T-line and a semi-rig at the intersection of Third Street and Innes.

The two crashes had first responders rushing to treat the 40 people injured at the scenes. According to protocol, emergency rooms were put on alert for seven Bay Area hospitals which readied themselves to receive the injured passengers.

“San Francisco’s emergency management system notifies hospitals when there’s a major incident just we’re on alert that we could have patients coming in and we did receive a notification,” said California Pacific Medical Center spokesman Dean Fryer… (more)

Supervisor Scott Wiener steps up heat on S.F. Fire Dept.

by Marisa Lagos : sfgate – excerpt

(04-29) 21:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Supervisor Scott Wiener has railed for years against the Fire Department‘s opposition to wider sidewalks and narrower streets – and on Tuesday, he declared an all-out war.

At the heart of the debate is a conflict between safety advocates, who want to see physical changes to city streets that make pedestrians safer, and fire officials, who contend their trucks are too big to navigate narrow streets and intersections.

The issue has been brewing for some time, but apparently boiled over because the Fire Department has been pushing for streets at the Hunters Point and Candlestick Point developments to be 26 feet wide, 6 feet more than what’s legally required. On Tuesday, Wiener accused the department of reopening a planning discussion years after neighbors, community leaders and city officials agreed on a development plan… (more)

The SF Fire Department is responsible for saving lives and property and nothing else. Who is qualified to tell them how to do that?  We put our lives in their hands each time they are called. Slowing down traffic and creating traffic gridlock is adding to their response time and if they don’t object they may be held liable for not doing their jobs.

We should all support emergency responders unless we think we can do a better job of putting out our own fires and rescuing ourselves the next time we need help. If you have had enough of people putting our lives in danger to meet their own objectives, tell the city officials you want to amend the Charter to Fix the MTA:

Firefighters concerned about narrowing SF streets

By Eric Rasmussen : KTVU – excerpt

The recent efforts to make San Francisco streets more pedestrian friendly may have the unintended consequences of slowing the response time of fire trucks answering emergency calls.

San Francisco streets can be frustrating and dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. Just ask San Francisco firefighters.

KTVU recently rode along with teams on two hook-and-ladder trucks in the city. They said some tight streets are getting tighter.

“They’re making bike lanes and putting palm trees in the middle, taking out a lane of traffic,” said firefighter Jim Fewell as he navigated down a stretch of Cesar Chavez.

Streetscape plans for the busy thoroughfare include a wider median, trees and something called “corner bulb outs.”…

But San Francisco firefighters argue the changes could make navigating city streets even more difficult.

“We don’t want to keep piling on these challenges,” said San Francisco Fire Dept. spokesperson Mindy Talmadge. “That will affect our response time.”

Response times are already ticking up.

According to the department, first units are arriving on scene in about five and a half minutes after a call is received. That is as much as eight seconds slower than during the first part of last year… (more)

I hope the folks who are pushing narrow streets against the concerns of emergency personnel don’t mind the extra time it will take to pick them up and deliver them to the hospital next time they need that service. I think I speak for the rest of us and I would prefer to make it easier for them to do their job.

SFFD Responds to “Special Interest Group Allegations” on Street Safety

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

The SF Fire Department has issued a statement on what it calls “allegations being made by special interest groups” regarding the department’s resistance to sidewalk bulb-outs and other safety improvements.
“We haven’t seen pedestrians being hit by vehicles on sidewalks because the sidewalks are too narrow. Furthermore, by narrowing city streets our vehicles and any other large vehicle traveling through San Francisco would be forced to cross into oncoming traffic to make a right-hand turn under normal circumstances. Proposals such as these cannot possibly make our streets, pedestrians and bicyclists safer.”…
SFFD also maintains its position that road width minimums of less than 20 feet are untenable for fire trucks, saying, “The minimum width is in the Fire Code for a reason.”
As a reminder, the Board of Supervisors adopted a local 12-foot minimum this fall…SFFD unsuccessfully tried to nix it

Here’s SFFD’s full statement:

Allegations being made by special interest groups that the San Francisco Fire Department is “opposed to” or “blocking” the progress of pedestrian safety measures that are being taken in San Francisco are simply not true.

As First Responders we are the first of the city’s agencies to recognize that there are far too many pedestrians and bicyclists suffering needless injuries and deaths on the streets of San Francisco each year. Emergency Responders are deeply affected each time they confront a serious death or injury. It is a ludicrous suggestion that the Fire Department would somehow be against improving the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Recently, the Fire Department was provided with data related to incidents involving pedestrians and vehicles that was misinterpreted. The moment the error was brought to our attention a correction was made. At no time did the Chief of Department place blame on pedestrians, or motorists for that matter, for any of the unfortunate incidents that have occurred in San Francisco. Clearly, each incident has its own set of circumstances so to place a blanket of blame on any one set of people would be irresponsible and unproductive.

Included in the Fire Code and required by State Law (Title 19) is a minimum width for city streets, 20 feet. The minimum width is in the Fire Code for a reason. All of our Fire Apparatus have a limitation on the turning radius, our aerial trucks require a certain amount of space to deploy the outriggers lest the aerial ladders are rendered useless and we must have enough space to pass by an already positioned fire engine to secure a water supply at the scene of a working fire.

In addition to the needs of the Fire Department to complete the mission of saving lives and property we are held to a certain standard, set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA), to meet certain response times. Our stance on slower response times is not what is being reported in the media. We have not stated that bulb-outs which are currently in place have made our response times slower, we are simply stating that if we can’t maneuver the turn, our response times will be slower, there are no two ways about it.

The Fire Department has done nothing to “block” traffic calming efforts. We have been and continue to collaborate with DPW and MTA. We are, on a regular basis, doing analysis and performing cone testing to ensure our ability to SAFELY and successfully maneuver the narrow turns that bulb-outs create. Suggestions that bulb-outs make the intersections easier for fire response vehicles because “the vehicles can mount the curb” also suggests that bulb-outs are actually less safe for the pedestrian if fire vehicles have to drive onto the bulb-out, where pedestrians will be standing, to make the turn. There is no intention to obstruct or slow things down, but we don’t want to compromise our ability to get to our destination. We can and will work with the Transportation Advisory Staff Committee (TASC) on a case by case basis.

The Fire Department takes a realistic position in the fact that there are currently 30+ cranes positioned throughout the City. This means only one thing….more housing, more people, more automobiles and more foot traffic.

Development projects that are being proposed include widening sidewalks and narrowing streets to 16 feet in width, citing that wider sidewalks make pedestrians safer. We haven’t seen pedestrians being hit by vehicles on sidewalks because the sidewalks are too narrow. Furthermore, by narrowing city streets our vehicles and any other large vehicle traveling through San Francisco would be forced to cross into oncoming traffic to make a right-hand turn under normal circumstances. Proposals such as these cannot possibly make our streets, pedestrians and bicyclists safer.

We fully support Proposition B. We are not suggesting that there is no place for bulb-outs in the overall goal of creating a safer city for pedestrians and bicyclists. What we are saying is that it isn’t as simple as the special interest groups are suggesting that it is. There is a much larger picture that isn’t being looked at and the Fire Department’s concerns are only one piece of it.

We believe the newly painted bike lanes with lane designators have proven to be a very effective solution to creating safer streets for bicyclists. We support ongoing efforts for improved street lighting as well. A solution that the Fire Department feels should be considered that would be at a minimum cost with the same or similar results, creating greater visibility of pedestrians, is “daylighting”. Daylighting is simply painting curb extensions. Another low cost but effective solution to preventing crosswalk incidents is installing crosswalk beacons… (more)

Firefighters concerned about narrowing SF streets  
SF Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White at a 
hearing in September
Firefighters say city’s congestion is impacting response times